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Venturing on Forest Roads

The weather over Memorial Day weekend wasn't looking that great, but we knew we wanted to get out and enjoy the great outdoors on our 3-day weekend. Saturday had the lowest chance of rain, so we decided that was the day we were hiking. Rain wasn't supposed to start until mid-afternoon, so we figured if we got to the trailhead by late morning that we would be okay. The trail we chose was hiking up a bunch of forest roads that are typically used for offroading. However, there were some recent reviews on hiking websites that said the OHV gate was closed, which meant that it would be perfect for hiking without all the 4-wheelers trying to run us over. The trail we picked was hiking up to Panorama Peak which starts at Pole Hill Road just outside of Estes Park. We built it up in our heads as something that would probably have pretty awesome views at the summit. That build-up lead us to disappointment at the summit where there were so many trees that you couldn't get a clear view of the surrounding mountain ranges.

As we walked up to Panorama Peak, we noticed an observation tower. We thought it was pretty awesome that there was a public tower in the middle of Rosevelt National Forest. But we quickly realized that it was locked and we couldn't go up. We later found out it's owned by a local OHV company. So in order to get panoramic views at Panorama Peak, you have to pay an OHV company to drive you up there. Oh well, there are other places that we can get panoramic views for free that people can't simply pay someone to drive up to.

The hike itself was pretty great other than the summit. This hike is right outside of Estes Park and its peak tourist season, so we were expecting to have to fight for a parking spot in the small, half-dozen car lot. But as we drove up, we found 2 other cars there. Since the whole point of hiking is to get away from everyone, we both thought this was great, and didn't see a single person on the hike except at the summit (where there was an OHV tour group that we presume got to go up the tower).

The 3-mile hike to the summit included some great views of still snow-capped Longs Peak through the trees and views of the Mummy Range. As the storms rolled over the mountains, we got to see all different types of lighting, ranging from fully sunny to very stormy over Longs Peak. But luckily for us, the storms parted as they went over Estes Park and we didn't get a single drop of rain during our 3 hour hike. We intended to head to the Notch as well on this hike, which would have only added a mile onto the hike, however, we missed the turnoff onto FDR 247D. After the hike, we looked it up and saw the road was at the bottom of the large meadow we passed through, and the photos I took confirmed that there was a road there, but it was completely fenced off.

Trailhead Location
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6.25 mi 2.7 hrs 9,267 ft 1,155 ft
View Graph
Glimpse Through the Trees
Growing From a Pine Cone
From the First Summit
Panorana Tower
Un-panoramic Views at Panorama Peak
Storms Rolling In
Curvy Road
Calypso Orchid
Ruining the Scenery
Best Panorama of the Day